It is already an accepted forecast that the mobile device market, comprising of smartphones, tablets, and everything in-between, is going to overtake the supremacy of the personal computer (desktops, laptops, notebooks, netbooks), and with plenty of good and sensible reasons. Being inexpensive, portable, easy-to-use, and capable of doing the mainstream tasks that traditionally were within the PC’s domain, these little gadgets are only going to be even more ubiquitous in the coming years.
Although personal computers are still the de facto device for workstations, does the dominance of the wee computing devices sound the death knell to the home computer system? If I am to take the side of the desktop PC (which I would do without hesitation, being the traditional PC worker and gamer that I am), where would I see the PC in your typical home of a family two to three years into the future?
Home Entertainment Center
Once the place of the multi-component stereo system, the PC is a prime choice to become the centerpiece of any technology-loving music and movie enthusiast. Designated as a Home Theatre Personal Computer (HTPC), these smaller, more audiovisual-specialized rigs tend to be on the smaller side, usually built around Mini ITX motherboards equipped with modest central processor units, albeit with superior audio and display capabilities that take full advantage of the high resolution LCD or plasma displays that are prevalent today.
Not only can they hold your favorite music and shows, they also do a great job of streaming content from the internet, and are still capable gaming platforms. Current generation consoles may boast similar capabilities, but they still fall short in customizability and options.
Network Data Storage
We love the portability and ease of use afforded by the smartphones, “phablets,” and tablets, but storage technologies had not advanced far enough that these little devices can contain all of our data (and they probably never will, since the focus is putting everything in the cloud). Still, we would still prefer to have some of our data physically located in a drive within our possession, and that’s where having a NAS (network attached server) comes in handy.
While people have been building their own home servers, as well as dedicated servers in data centers that handle much greater loads, there are appliance NAS units built around embedded systems that are easily configurable and relatively inexpensive. Hardware manufacturers like Buffalo, Seagate, Kontron, and even Intel have small PC solutions that can easily be configured into very compact and cost-effective appliance-style network storage devices.
Security and Surveillance Platform
The technology to create a centralized command and control console to manage your cameras, electronic locks, lighting, and various other systems in your 21st century home is already here, and within reach of the common person. All it takes is a decently-built and reliable PC as its nexus. Wireless IP cameras and other surveillance devices can be placed just about anywhere within and around the house, and they can all be accessed on this computer.
Enthusiast Gaming Rig
This option needs very little elaboration, as the PC gamer culture is well-represented online, and the enthusiast-grade hardware and games are also very visible on the internet. When it comes to cutting edge, maximum graphical detail and performance gaming, consoles and portable devices just won’t do.
More dens and so-called “man-caves” have a gaming-grade computer as part of its standard lineup of appliances and devices, and given that gaming itself has pretty much gone mainstream, this is not a surprising trend.
To summarize, the PC still has a long, long way to go before becoming extinct in the consumer space, as some people would lead others to believe. Surely the putty-colored chassis and monitor are not going to be a common sight in your regular home, but there will most certainly be more specialized PCs in compact and embedded forms that will grace our homes for years to come.
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